Be careful what you pray for!
I was leaning back on the hood of my car, my heart thumping powerfully in my chest. As the young man had tried to insult me, the two policemen that were taking him away also took enough of his breath away by using a billy club to his stomach that he stopped in mid curse.
Of course he wanted to curse me, because except for me chasing him across part of Maryland and a lot of Delaware, he'd not be in police custody. He would have gotten away with hitting that station wagon and damaging it. He would have disappeared, unaccountable for what he did to that family. The officers knew that too.
When I had told them that I had, along with the young man whom I was chasing, also gone through about 3 or 4 red lights, some at over 90 miles an hour, they just told me that they didn't have any record of me breaking any law, and that I was free to go. They took my information because I was a witness of what the young man did. They were clearly glad I had helped them catch the young man in their custody.
As they left, and I got back in my car, I found that I couldn't turn on the engine. Actually, I couldn't turn the key in the ignition. My hands were shaking too much. In part, the realization of what had just happened hit me, and it took me about 20 minutes before I trusted myself behind the wheel again and continued my drive home.
Yes, I had been going home for Christmas in early January of 1981 when all this had happened. When an emotionally powerful prayer had been made, and answered in a much more powerful way than I could have imagined.
It was the way the prayer was answered that had me shaking, not just the dangers I had just survived, nor the cool, calm, calculated way in which I had handled the danger. I begged God to forgive my lack of faith, stated only about 45 minutes before, shortly after crossing the Virginia-Maryland border along U.S. 13, headed North.
Let me take you back to how it all started, at least on this day in early January, 1981.
I was a 26 year old Navy Lieutenant, back home from a long cruise aboard the USS NIMITZ (CVN-68). My Navy job had me flying around in F-14 Tomcats as the Radar Intercept Officer, running the radar, computer, electronic warfare stuff and even the radio. It was exciting, and very lonely. I had great co-workers, some of which I had watched die. I had become a Christian about 18 months before, and was a bachelor with no prospects for changing that. I had 'volunteered' for Christmas duty for 1980 so that the married officers could be with their families, and felt very lonely. (That's another story.)
As I was headed north for some time with my parents for the holidays, (yes it was late, but we couldn't all go home for Christmas at the same time), I was feeling very lonely and depressed. In my inability at the time to see anything good about what was going on in my life, I complained to God that I was very inadequate. That the only skills I saw that I had were what I did in the plane, and that I had a lot of experience driving long distances in a short time across country. I was referring to the dozen or more speeding tickets I had gotten, and the many dozen others that I deserved.
I clearly remember praying, "Look, the only thing I do well is drive this car fast, and what good is that? All it does is scare others and get me into trouble. Oh, and I know how to use this CB radio, so what! What good am I?" Based on what happened in the next 90 minutes, I am tempted to never ask that question again.
A few miles into Maryland (from Virginia) along U.S. 13, going only a little over the speed limit, I passed a young man in a Japanese sports car. I did not know that he was the answer to my prayer, and neither did he. I only noticed him because of the car he was driving: it was fast, probably faster than the all-black SAAB 900 Turbo I was driving. I thought it would be fun to race him, and kill the boredom of this trip. ... Little did I know ...
Minutes later, as I was driving north through Salisbury, I heard someone asking for help over the CB radio. The man told of being hit by a Japanese sports car, same color as I had seen only minutes earlier. The driver fit the description and the license plates from the same state. The car had hit him, damaged the station wagon, injured one of the children in back, and drove off north.
As I still had hundreds of miles to go to get home, I answered his call and pulled over. I knew I was ahead of them both, and expected to see him fly by any minute. I didn't have to wait long. As he flew by, I started the chase. All I knew, was that I was chasing a hit and run driver that had injured a child. This chase started just north of Salisbury.
I got on the CB radio, calling for police help, and can you believe it, I couldn't attract any? I was calling out our speeds, our location, our direction, all to no avail. When I saw that my target was not going to let me catch him, I changed focus to staying with him at all costs. I turned on my emergency flashers, and a few minutes later, so did he.
He went through a red light, using the left shoulder after slowing to about 75 miles per hour, going around 4 stopped vehicles. I hesitated a fraction of a second before going around on the right side at about the same speed. We did that two more times.
The crazier he got the more determined I got, I became afraid of losing him. The tougher I hung on, the crazier he got. Later, he pulled a u-turn in the middle of a straight patch of road, and I went with him. He turned around again, back to the north with me only yards behind him. He was running scared, and so was I. I was grateful he didn't stop, because I had no idea as to what I would do if he did stop. I thought about it, and hoped he wouldn't put me in that situation.
Just before those u-turns the station wagon driver said he was going to pull over and get the police since he knew I was involved in staying on the culprit. We zoomed through Dover and Odessa, little towns that went by like blurs, except for everyone that I had to avoid hitting.
We had covered many miles in a crazy way, and finally, I saw my chance for help.
We were coming up on the St. George's bridge in northern Delaware, where I had carefully gone by a radar trap dozens of times. As we approached the bridge, I hopefully again asked for a police officer. There he was, as always, and as he responded to my call, we flew past him at over 90 miles an hour.
I explained, "You've got two of us running north at about 90. The red car is accused of a hit and run back in Salisbury, I'm in the black car behind him. I'll let go of him when you catch up." To my satisfaction, he caught up pretty fast, and pulled the young man over. I also pulled over, because I was a witness to many violations, as well as guilty of several myself.
I did not know how the police would react to my actions, but I did know that I was not going to try to run away from them the way that he had. The policeman did not allow the other driver out of the car until back up had arrived, and it took them a very long 5 minutes to catch up!
I later learned that they had gotten to the accident scene in under three minutes, and had heard the interchange between the station wagon driver and myself. They'd been chasing us all along, unable to catch us, even tho we turned around and came back at them ... twice!
The backup took my info, and his partner helped the original officer to get the young man out of his car. That's when he tried to cuss me out and ... developed a breathing problem, possibly due to the nightstick in his belly. The officers then started to discuss which county courthouse to take him to, because he had violated laws in several counties! That's when I volunteered my equal guilt, and they ignored me. I didn't push it.
So here it was, several minutes after all that, and I was trying to settle down, but unable to do so. Once everyone else had left the scene of the arrest, I clearly heard a voice tell me,
"That's what you can do with your ability to drive fast."
Do you blame me for not being able to move?